60 seconds with (4 months later) … James Godwin, Head of People – Harbour Hotels

How was the re-opening of your business and how was it carried out in line with safety procedures put in place to allow social distancing? 

The reopening was a well planned and executed approach; we began planning almost as soon as we had closed in March! We took the Government Guidelines along with advice from Hospitality UK and other key organisations and built a set of protocols to work from. This resulted in a comprehensive Risk Analysis and sets of Operating Procedures. We made a video called ‘Safe Harbour’ for our guests and continue to amend and adapt based on ensuring the safety of our guests and people is at the top of the list.

How is the general feeling and feedback from your team members and your customers now the lockdown is over?

We are seeing a general sense of relief that our team are back to work and most of our properties are now open. There is always some trepidation, but we are doing our best to showcase all the measures we have taken to ensure that we are as COVID safe as possible. Many of our guests are returning guests and they too are very pleased to be able to visit our properties again.

What role has technology played in supporting your re-opening plan?

We utilised Microsoft Teams for regular welfare calls with our senior managers and they in turn found creative ways to stay in touch with their teams such as weekly quizzes; fun with music and creative sessions to name a few. The actual re-opening took a much more hands on approach (socially distant obviously!)  with regards to COVID SOP training and modifying our standards to ensure excellent standards are maintained whilst keeping everyone safe.

What market trends are you seeing since re-opening? We are uniquely placed along the south coast, with a number of coastal properties; these have seen a good uptake in visiting guests. The biggest challenge has been in our city locations where groups and corporate bookings were commonplace – given the continued rules around this, this continues to be an area of focus.

What techniques have you used to build sales and re-engaged customers?

We continue to use multiple social channels and our website to have kept our guests engaged and updated on what we were doing – this has proven to be very positive

What positive lessons do we need to learn from what the industry has been through?

 I would say that hospitality has now been highlighted as an even more valuable industry in the UK; synergy and collaboration has been the main focus and rightly so, to ensure that as many businesses can not only survive but then thrive over the coming months and years. Our people are at the heart of what we do – the hospitality sector is full of amazing people and we (the employers) need to let them know they are appreciated.

Date Published: 3rd September 2020